No Proof but Leaders of Katy EDC Stand Firm that they were Key Players in Amazon Coming to Katy

KATY (Covering Katy) – The Katy Area Economic Development Council has not changed its position that it is one of the entities responsible for bringing an expected 1,000 jobs to Katy/Waller County even though those who were involved in the negotiation with the internet retail giant Amazon say the KAEDC had no meaningful role in the negotiations and were only involved in two early meetings months before the project was finalized.

Critics of the KAEDC say the organization has a long history of taking credit for economic success stories that it had little or nothing to do with negotiating.

The KAEDC has come under fire after it altered an Amazon press release that announced the news that it was building a 1 million square foot distribution center in Katy/Waller County. The alteration added two paragraphs that, among other things, claimed the KAEDC “provided coordination with all entities involved.” It also removed the Amazon press contact information and replaced it with the contact information for Lance LaCour, KAEDC president and CEO.  Doing so tells the media that LaCour is the man to interview for information about the story.

The KAEDC claims it had permission to alter the Amazon press release and distribute it to the media following Amazon’s decision to locate a distribution center in Katy/Waller County.

“We prepared a statement from our organization to be used regarding the announcement and forwarded it to Amazon for approval. It was approved,” said an email from Rick Ellis, KAEDC vice president. Still, Ellis did not produce a document proving that the KAEDC had approval from Amazon.

The KAEDC’s version of events run counter to what’s been said by sources at Katy City Hall and Vince Yokom of the Waller County Economic Development Partnership. They all say Amazon requested that only its press release be distributed, with absolutely no changes made to it. The story being told at Katy City Hall and by Yokom are consistent with what actually happened when the announcement was made. Neither Katy nor Waller County issued their own press release.

The KAEDC declined Covering Katy’s request that it provide documentation including phone records, calendar items and emails that would demonstrate any important involvement of the KAEDC in the deal. The KAEDC cited an Amazon nondisclosure agreement as the reason for not answering several direct questions from Covering Katy.

See our questions and the KAEDC’s answers.

The press release distributed by Amazon contains quotes from the mayor of Katy and the Waller County judge, but there was no mention of the role of the KAEDC.

One of the most interesting claims by the KAEDC is that it had no way to produce phone records of the date and time of phone calls with those involved in the discussion. The KAEDC claims its phone providers do not have the ability to let its customers see their own call logs, something that is standard practice with virtually every phone provider in the United States.

“According to our inquiries with phone providers, we are not able to access phone logs,” Ellis said.

That response does not explain why the KAEDC does not feel obligated to internally track its efforts for the review of its board of directors, but it seems to imply that the organization’s board does not require this type of detailed oversight of its employees.

“Most EDC boards want to know what their CEO is doing. This is especially true in private EDCs where it is common to have local business leaders on the board,” said Yokom. The CEO’s actions will reflect on them and their business, so they should want to know what’s going on,” Yokom added.

“I think it’s reasonable to assume in general that the board approves of actions taken on behalf of an organization,” Yokom said.

Still, the KAEDC is taking a step back from the appearance that it is the point of contact on the project.

“We apologize if there was any misunderstanding on the information we shared,” said Ellis.

Click for the original story:  Katy EDC accused of deceptively stealing Credit for Amazon Deal

 

 

9 Comments

  1. I agree that this bill should happen. The Texas AG (now governor) has already proven to be less than willing to force some govt. agencies to be transparent – it’s pretty clear a strong bill is necessary to force non-governmental but publicly funded (at least partially) organizations to show their records upon request. Apparently the KAEDC is ripe for a good public look-see…

  2. That guy has been a scammer since he came to Katy. I suspect if you dig in his background you will find a lot of things that don’t add up. The local media is always quick to put his picture and his comments of good doings in the paper but as you point out does he really do them or jump on coattails

  3. There is a bill in the legislature to require organization that accept public funds from Tax payers, will be required to abide by open records. The AG has a ruled that they are not part of the open records requirements. The EDC receive ‘ funding from the cities, counties, School districts, and even Muds. That alone should not be allowed. Strong resistance from the government lobbyist.

  4. Mary,

    Good question. Unfortunately the Katy EDC does not have to respond to pubic information requests, but there is a bill that is likely to pass this session that would bring them under the public information umbrella.

    Dennis Spellman

  5. Did CoveringKaty put the request for public information in a formal request?

    I’m thinking that KAEDC is a government, quasi-government, NGO that receives and uses tax dollars from other governments or one of those other situations that falls under the state laws that say they have to release information like what you asked to receive.

  6. I do not understand why KEDC charges the taxpayers $15,000 for KISD to be a member. KISD should be at the table anytime a business is considering Katy because they can be a real asset. In my career I was a member of a county wide EDC at no cost because of the impact our Community College could have in attracting business. Later in my career when I was the Executive Director of the Florida Postsecondary Education Planning Commission I was always invited to participate with the Florida Council of 100 ( the top CEOs in Florida) at no cost other than my hotel since they met all over the state. The members paid all other costs for me.
    KISD paying o be part of the EDC with your money unconscionable.

  7. So at this point, considering their lack of actual legal power to negotiate anything and inability to retrieve phone logs (apparently they haven’t dealt with teenager cell records before), and with their “sworn secrecy” with the deal, we have to guess as to their true involvement. Here’s mine:

    Check their credit cards :
    – They probably booked a couple of conference rooms and
    – They probably ordered/paid for takeout.
    – They probably provided hotel reservations (you know, will all the hotel chains they “brought” to Katy!) = maybe Lance even worked out a 10% discount to “save” the EDC $$$!
    – They probably wined and dined the Amazon execs around town – maybe even got them some award-winning Katy Tiger gear – and took them to meet Tiger Nation on a weekend at Rhodes last fall! (Do you think they got to meet Robert Willeby too?!?!?) (Sorry Robert, couldn’t resist!)

    So does anyone else have any guesses?

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